Her life in words
Barbara Barrett writes a gift for her family
It’s a story that’s been on my mind since this spring.
I had paid a visit to Barbara Barrett and her husband, Frank, nearly a year ago.
The story then was how she had fought against the system, which had deemed that Frank needed to be placed in longterm care.
She persevered to have him come back home to live with her and, with the aid of two home-care workers, he is still able to live with his wife in their neat little bungalow on Harbour Buffett Road in Arnold’s Cove.
While doing that story, I stumbled on another one.
Barbara had a book, a very special, one- of- a- kind book. I flipped through the pages, and knew instantly I needed to spend more time with it.
I promised Barbara I would come back for another visit, to tell that other story.
Last week I managed the time to do just that; to spend an afternoon with Barbara and her book.
From the outside, it’s a fairly plain book — a black, legal-sized hardcover, containing 200 pages.
Besides the fact there is only one copy of this book anywhere in the world — and the only place you will find it is at Barbara’s house — the thing that makes it truly unique is what is inside.
On each of the ruled pages, in neat, cursive, handwriting — with not a single scratchedout word on any one of those pages — is the life story of Barbara Barrett.
She began this project in 2013; determined to commit her vivid memories to paper.
“It’s a good time in life, having time to look back at the past,” says the retired schoolteacher.
Her aim was to have a record for her family — children, grandchildren and those who are still to come — showing them what it was like to live in O’Dearin, a small community on an island in Placentia Bay, long before the trappings of modern-day life.
The stories are factual, and personal.
Some are heartwarming, some are heartbreaking.
Such is the way of life — sorrow mixed with joy, happiness interrupted by sadness.
She writes of her father, a fisherman, who also built schooners.
Her stories tell of long-ago Christmas pageants, of Christmas dinners built not from a trip to the grocery story, but of what was at hand: their own pork, wild ducks and turr, and vegetables from their own gardens.
Barbara writes of family— like the birth of her baby brother and the memories of the small shop her mother ran next to their home.
She tells her own tale — her move from O’Dearin when she was just 15, to attend summer school to train for teaching, and her first posting in Tack’s Beach. She was just 16.
She writes of love and romance, recounting her first meeting with Frank Barrett, her indecision on committing to marriage and their eventual wedding day five years later.
She writes, with honesty and emotion, about the death of her six-year-old daughter, Linda, in a tragic car accident.
She tells of the heartbreak she and Frank endured, returning to their empty home, their bodies still healing from the accident, their emotions raw from their loss.
Continued on Page B3
Barbara Barrett at her home in Arnold’s Cove, with the book of her life stories.
This excerpt from her book shows Barbara’s neat, cursive, handwriting, and the detail in the stories from her life. This is a passage from her story titled “Love and Romance” and tells of the day she met Frank Barrett, the man who would be her husband.